Creating course content that meets accessibility standards can be a daunting task for people just beginning to learn about what accessible content looks like in the digital environment. Fortunately, there are a few relatively easy actions we can all take that will have a significant impact on increasing accessibility in our digital content.

Here you will find resources to help you get started with improving accessibility in your course content. As you become familiar and more skilled with those easy tasks and as they become part of your work routine, we hope you will continue to learn about other accessibility barriers and how you can prevent them in your content.

Accessibility Tools at your Fingertips

Three tools are available in Canvas to help you identify and fix accessibility issues in Canvas content and uploaded documents.

  • UDOIT Accessibility Check is a tool that helps faculty identify and fix common accessibility issues in content built directly in Canvas.
  • Canvas Accessibility Checker is a relatively new tool built by Canvas that, like UDOIT, allows faculty to identify and fix common accessibility issues in content built directly in Canvas.
  • Ally is the newest tool added to Canvas at Oregon State. Ally has two primary features that are not available through the other two tools:
    • Scans uploaded documents for accessibility issues
    • Provides alternative formats to students for Canvas content and uploaded documents

Why are there so many tools?

Currently, no single tool provides everything that the other tools provide. For Canvas content, UDOIT Accessibility Check is currently the best tool for locating and fixing accessibility in native content. Ally is the only tool that scans documents that have been uploaded to Canvas for accessibility issues and provides instructions for fixing the issues. Ally also provides alternative formats to students. As the native Canvas Accessibility Checker and the Ally tools mature, they will likely replace UDOIT Accessibility Check in the future.

Where to Start?

Some of the most common accessibility issues in digital content are also some of the easiest to avoid or fix. They include color contrast issues, providing alternative text for images, and providing appropriate structure to your documents.

Fix color contrast issues

Both UDOIT Accessibility Check and Canvas Accessibility Checker provide tools for a user to select an appropriate font color that will meet accessibility standards for color contrast in Canvas content.

Ally provides step-by-step instructions for how to fix color contrast issues present in documents uploaded to Canvas. However, you will need to use another tool to determine if your selected fonts and background colors are sufficiently distinct to meet color contrast standards. Several free tools are available online for you to check color contrast for accessibility issues including a color checker tool from WebAIM. WebAIM is a website dedicated to providing education and tools for web accessibility.

Provide Alternative Text for Images

Images can contain content and/or functionality. Images that don’t contain content or functionality are decorative images and should be marked as such in Canvas and in documents uploaded to Canvas that contain images.

The accessibility tools in Canvas will flag images for Alternative Text issues and provide tools for either marking images as decorative, adding Alternative Text for the image in Canvas, or instructions for adding Alternative Text to images in uploaded documents.

In addition to adding Alternative Text for images, equally important is what the Alternative Text should be. Currently there are no tools that can automatically create meaningful and accurate Alternative Text. WebAIM provides an excellent resource for creating Alternative Text for images in specific contexts. It also provides information on how to handle complex images.

Provide Appropriate Structure

When creating digital content, sighted people often use font size and/or font styles to visually represent headings, lists, or other document structures. However, these visual changes are not sufficient for people to understand the document structure when using a screen reader.

The three tools available in Canvas will flag content that are suspected to be “visual headers” or other text that appears to be visually manipulated to represent document structure, and provide tools or instructions for how to apply document structure in a way that will be accessible to screen readers.

Use the Canvas Rich Content Editor tools to add headings, create lists, and more to your Canvas content. For uploaded documents, use the tools in the software in which you created your document to add structure. WebAIM provides information for adding structure to Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and PDF files:

Ready to Dive Deeper?

Once you are regularly avoiding color contrast issues, missing alternative text, and document structure issues, learn more about other aspects of accessibility in digital content by reviewing WebAIM’s WCAG 2 Checklist, exploring accessibility in media content, or challenges and solutions when considering accessibility with student response systems in the classroom. Finally, a self-paced course on accessibility is available to all OSU Canvas users (login required).

OSU Digital Accessibility Community

Do you have questions about creating accessible course materials? Join the OSU Digital Accessibility Community Microsoft Team. This Team is a space for OSU faculty, staff and students to share resources and build community around digital accessibility, and is supported by UIT-Academic Technologies, Equal Opportunity and Access, Disability Access Services, Center for Teaching and Learning, and Ecampus. Share your questions or knowledge about accessibility in documents, images or video, and get support from the community.  

To join the Team from a computer: 

  1. Open Microsoft Teams and click Teams (left navigation menu) > All Teams 
  2. Click the “Join or create team” button in the upper right corner 
  3. Hold your mouse over OSU Digital Accessibility Team and click Join 

Need help with MS Teams? Contact the Service Desk